Today has been a celebration of a project described by the Dean of Peterborough, Charles Taylor, as having been “in gestation long enough for an elephant to have produced and reared three if not four calves”.
Those who had been closely involved in the project as funders, advisers, designers, contractors and supporters came together to tour the building and celebrate its completion.
It was an occasion to thank financial supporters, not least the Heritage Lottery Fund whose £2.4 million grant for the “Letting it Speak for Itself” project supported not only the Visitor Centre but also the new entrance at the West Front (opened last year) and the new interpretation inside the Cathedral (yet to be completed).
Speaking to guests at the event Helen Wilson, Chair of the Heritage Lottery in the East of England, said:
“You have been able to conserve and transform the fine Grade II listed building which becomes the home of your Visitor and Learning Centre. This in turn means you have a base from which to develop a community participation programme, expanding learning activities for both adults and children. And you are expanding your volunteer programme to help open up to the widest possible audience the many resources that the Cathedral has to offer. My congratulations to everyone involved in this project and my best wishes for your future success.”
She added: “I’m sure that everyone here will agree that, with the evidence before you today, their Lottery money is being very well spent.”
The Dean, Charles Taylor, said that the Centre, along with other Peterborough 900 projects, expressed “a corporate vision of what a Cathedral community should be and how it can better reach out to, engage with and serve its city, diocese and wider region as an open and inclusive resource." He said it was a vision "motivated indeed by our Christian faith and values, but one which seeks to use ways that are accessible and promote understanding with visitors of all ages, whatever their culture or traditions.”
He paid tribute to the generosity of those trusts and individuals whose donations had produced the match funding required to complete the project. He also praised the Project Board under the chairmanship of Canon Jonathan Baker, the Project Manager Stephen Crane, the fundraising team and the Cathedral Development and Preservation Trust under the chairmanship of Simon Schanschieff, as well as those whose practical skills had made the Centre a reality.
Children from Bishop Creighton Academy were amongst the first to try out the new Learning Centre on the top floor of the building, where they were interviewed during their visit by BBC Look East for a news piece about the Centre.
See photos on Facebook.
Public opening on Saturday 10 September
The Visitor and Learning Centre will be formally opened to the public by the historian and broadcaster Dr David Starkey, at 2.00pm on Saturday 10th September. Knights in armour will form a guard of honour as he cuts the ribbon across the entrance. All are welcome to attend this event. The Centre is then open daily from 10.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Saturday, and from 11.00am to 4.00pm on Sundays.